White House: Trump's tweet about Russia probe was an opinion

Adjust Comment Print

The Republican president has long complained about the criminal probe into his White House victory but Wednesday's comment appeared to be his most direct call for shutting down the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Last year, Sessions recused himself from any investigation related to the 2016 presidential campaigns soon after it came to light that he had failed to disclose during his Senate confirmation hearing contacts with Russia's ambassador to Washington. "Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to the United States of America!" This is an attempt to obstruct justice hiding in plain sight.

Sessions recused himself from overseeing the probe, leaving Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge of it.

White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders played down Trump's tweet later Wednesday.

Regardless, that and other Trump tweets regarding the investigation are likely of interest to the special counsel, who has been scrutinizing the president's online attacks on the probe as part of his inquiry into obstruction of justice.

So if Mueller finds evidence that the 2016 Trump campaign worked with a foreign power to sway the election, then conspiracy - not collusion - would be the charge.

Mr. Trump's belief that an interview would bring the probe to a swift end ignores several realities: that the probe sprawls into areas beyond his behaviour; the possibility that Justice Department officials will hand over the results of the investigation to lawmakers to decide whether to proceed; and the lack of any public indication from the special counsel about how much work he has ahead of him.

Earlier this summer, Trump's legal team sought to set specific conditions on an interview and make central topics off limits - conditions they believed would be dealbreakers for the special counsel.

Trump's lawyers, though, are reportedly concerned an interview could expose the president to legal jeopardy.

Manafort was hired in late March 2016 as Trump's campaign chairman and resigned in mid-August of that year - a stretch that included the Republican convention at which Trump was formally nominated. And with the midterms only three months away, critics have called on Trump to take a stronger stand. It follows a meeting last week of the National Security Council on election security, the first Trump has led on the matter, which lasted less than an hour and produced no new orders on how to counter or deter the interference.

"Had Trump directed a recused AG to terminate an investigation into his conduct and the conduct of those around him in private, we would nearly surely deem it a criminal act", says Joyce White Vance, a former federal prosecutor.

The quiet exchange of proposals between the two sides stands in sharp contrast to a series of broadsides that Trump and his aides have launched at Mueller and his investigation.

Last month, Trump came under broad, bipartisan criticism for appearing to downplay the USA intelligence community's assessment that Russia was behind 2016 cyberattacks, during a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They also pressed Mueller's investigators to demonstrate that they can not obtain the information they are seeking without interviewing the president.

Litman, meanwhile, told anchor Brooke Baldwin that he would construe Trump's tweet as a command.

In view of the tweet, "I think it would be helpful to have the debate on that bill", Collins said.